GIS

A New Twist to Petroleum GIS

6 May, 2008 By: Andrew G. Roe,P.E.

Web-based application helps oil and gas explorers stay on track.


In the petroleum industry, creating exploration maps is key to discovering and extracting oil and gas resources. GIS applications have aided significantly in these efforts, but industry professionals are always on the lookout for new tools.

A Colorado firm recently introduced a tool that enables users to more easily determine geographic points representing land polygons. The PolyBuilder application from Lakewood, Colorado-based WhiteStar allows users to enter a legal description for a property or region and obtain coordinates defining the boundaries of the land area. The points can be identified by either latitude/longitude values or state plane coordinates.

Over the years, exploration map creation has evolved from traditional paper drawings and crayon markings to various GIS- and CAD-based techniques, but boundary calculation has often been treated as a separate task disconnected from the map-building process. "It's hard to plot legal descriptions" using previously employed techniques, according to WhiteStar account manager Anthony Ford.

PolyBuilder allows users to enter a footage call, legal description, or a combination of both, and receive coordinate data virtually instantly. The Web-based application works in conjunction with Whitestar's UGA (Unlimited Grid Access) product, as well as its UWA (well data) and UBA (base data such as streets and land features) products. UGA data can be exported into a variety of mapping formats such as ESRI shape files, DXF, and others.

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Legal descriptions are entered to produce coordinate data. (Image courtesy of Whitestar Corp.)

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Base maps can be prepared for properties within the U.S. Public Land Survey system, the Texas survey system, and offshore federal and state waters in the Gulf of Mexico. (Image courtesy of Whitestar Corp.)

Coordinates can be represented in various datums, such as NAD27 or NAD83, as well as various grid projections. Accuracy is limited to the base mapping accuracy, typically within 40 feet horizontally using the UGA data, which is based on USGS topographic maps. For more accurate locations, field survey data can be imported.

WhiteStar introduced PolyBuilder at the ESRI Petroleum User Group conference in February. Although detailed user feedback is not yet available, Ford predicts PolyBuilder will greatly reduce the cost and time for most companies involved in preparing exploration maps.

One WhiteStar user considering adopting PolyBuilder is Petrohawk Energy Corporation, an independent oil exploration and development company based in Houston. "If [PolyBuilder] does what they say it does, we would definitely be interested," said Jason Barr, senior geosciences technician with Petrohawk. The company uses UGA, UWA, and UBA, and has found the WhiteStar suite an economical alternative to other industry mapping products, which can cost four times as much, Barr said.

UGA, UBA, and UWA are subscription-based products, priced at $500 per month for each module, including quarterly updates. Whitestar did not provide firm pricing for PolyBuilder. The UGA module provides access to the entire U.S. Land Grid, including properties within the U.S. Public Land Survey system, the Texas survey system, and offshore federal and state waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The UWA module provides details such as well name, number, elevation, and other attributes for 3.7 million wells nationwide. The UBA product provides a seamless nationwide digital mosaic of base map information layers from U.S. Census Bureau TIGER files, with optional TeleAtlas upgrades. It contains 42 layers of cultural features that can be custom-selected by area of interest and downloaded into the various mapping packages.


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